(Reprinted from today’s Guyana Times)
Following the abrupt dismissal of Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur and his bombshell revelations that there was massive corruption, nepotism, and unprofessional activities since the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government assumed office, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is demanding answers on a number of issues surrounding the controversy.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Jagdeo defended Sattaur’s integrity, noting that he has always discharged his duties in a professional manner.
“This Commissioner-General has been there for many years; as far as I am aware, he has discharged his responsibilities in a professional manner: you’ve never heard about any Opposition member in the many years under the PPP [People’s Progressive Party]. It’s a rare thing to hear about an Opposition member complaining about being targeted by their taxes or anything of that sort, so the discharge, in my view, of his responsibilities has been very professional,” Jagdeo said.
The former President, turning his attention to the recent exposé by Sattaur, noted the number of illegalities the former Commissioner General was asked to engage in after the coalition took power in May 2015.
“We have heard the Commissioner-General said in his statement that 1) ‘I was asked to rehire people who are corrupt or who had been fired for corruption.’ Has the media core in Guyana asked the Minister of Finance or the Chairman of the Board of GRA or the Acting Commissioner General who, if they have rehired anyone who was fired in the past? Has the media core investigated where any of those people have been fired for corruption?” Jagdeo asked.
The Opposition leader said he was in possession of information regarding persons who the Auditor General recommended be dismissed from the GRA, who have since been rehired.
Jagdeo also took a swipe at sections of the media which he said failed to call out the Government on its promises of transparency and accountability.
“Here is this pure Government, the transparent Government getting away with what I think is murder and it’s easy to verify whether the Commissioner General is telling the truth. It’s easy: ask the people involved and then you can ask him. He said, ‘I have been asked to settle tax matters that will cost billions of dollars’, now it’s clear the Commissioner General has the sole authority to settle tax matters, the Minister of Finance, the Ministry of the Presidency, none of them can tell him how to settle a tax matter yet here is the Commissioner saying ‘I have been prevailed upon. I’ve been urged to settle tax matters and I have the list of people that where I was asked about this to settle their matters.’”
Jagdeo questioned whether this was followed up, noting that the media seemed not to be interested in the potential billions of dollars of revenue that were lost.
“Isn’t this contrary to good governance: interference in the tax authorities of our country?” Jagdeo questioned.
He reminded of Sattaur’s revelations about the photocopying of files of top Government officials, and being asked to promote people who were not qualified among other issues.
“I think these things when there are these charges by a technical officer who’s a professional person, not by the politicians, not by the Minister ‘cause they have a political motive, then not just the media…but the international community must have a look into this matter and I do hope that this happens because this is ominous for the future of Guyana. It’s an ominous thing if the tax authorities of our country can’t manage in a professional manner. That is something that is extremely worrying and I do hope that the international community including those who have solicited to help to draft laws [take note],” Jagdeo said.
The Opposition Leader said his party intends to engage the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to examine the track record of the APNU/AFC since it took office just over eight months ago.
Jagdeo believes that the dismissal of Sattaur was all part of the Government’s witch-hunt against the PPP and those who seemed to be aligned to the Party.
Meanwhile, when questioned by Guyana Times on the issue, Finance Minister Winston Jordon did not answer but rather ignored the question.